When Michael Thompson was a kid, his dad gave him some advice.
“Be a jack of all trades and a master of none, and you’ll never want for a job.”
And that’s exactly what he’s done. These days you can find him working at the Marion Warehouse for Morgan Composting. Some days he might be running or fixing heavy equipment, other days he might be running the pellet machine, or creating fertilizer mixes.
And he’s worked other jobs throughout the years, but perhaps none more enjoyable nor closer to home. He lives right across the street from the warehouse, where he can keep an eye on things from his bedroom window. The joke around the shop is that he doubles as a security guard.
But there’s more to Mike than his work. His faith – and his Harley Davidson – is what guides him and helps keep his mind clear. He’s active with the choir at the Marion Community of Christ Church, where he’ll often ride his bike to and from choir practice.
We caught up with Mike recently and learned a little bit more about his story. We learned that Michael Thompson is more than just another face in the crowd.
Marion Press: Where were you born and raised?
Mike: I was born in Ohio; Circleville, Ohio, which is 30 miles south of Columbus. The reason it was called Circleville is because it was originally built in a circle around the courthouse. The courthouse is about the only thing left standing from that original plat. But I was raised up in Manton, we moved to Michigan in 1974. We traveled with a carnival [company] for a short time when I was a kid, and some of the people we traveled with lived up in Manton. They took my dad up there, and he just fell in love with it, so that’s where we ended up for a long time.
MP: So you spent most of your childhood in Manton?
Mike: Most of my childhood in Manton. Worked for my dad – he was a handyman – so I kind of worked for him, painting and doing handyman type stuff when I was a kid. Just before I graduated in ’85, we moved up to Benzonia. The reason we moved up to that area is because we met a family that owned a Christian camp up there – Camp Chenaniah in Honor. We’d go up there and work in the summertime, and we ended up loving it there. It’s beautiful up there; definitely God’s country up there.
MP: What were you into as a kid? What kept you busy?
Mike: When I got into junior high/high school I got into band; I played slide trombone. I got into FFA [Future Farmers of America] for a while in high school. Took farm shop, and metal shop in school. We had some friends there in Manton that we share-farmed with. They lived in the country; we lived in town right behind the bank, so we couldn’t have animals. We would buy animals and keep them out at their house, and we’d go out there and take care of them. I spent a lot of time out there because I always loved being in the country; being in the country is my jam!
MP: Were you familiar with Marion?
Mike: Well, I half grew up here. When my mom and stepdad got married, my stepdad’s grandparents [Alberts] owned the main house [on Morton Street, across from Morgan’s Warehouse] before it was connected. And when my brother and I would come down to visit my mom on the weekend, we’d stay up there in the apartment right there. So I part grew up here. I traced all over the countryside here, on bicycle and walking and what not.
MP: So after moving to Benzonia, where did life take you?
Mike: …I worked for a restaurant up there called Brookside Inn. We cooked German food, and had a wine cellar, all our wine came from Germany. I used to be the head cook there…
MP: So you were into cooking too?
Mike: I grew up in the restaurant. My family’s owned restaurants for years and years and years… My grandfather used to be very good friends with Colonel Sanders. I’ve got a picture with him and Colonel Sanders shaking hands, all dressed the same with the bowtie and everything. My grandparents owned their own restaurant, and when I was a kid, they managed 7 Kentucky Friend Chicken’s and Burger Chef’s throughout Ohio and Indiana. So the restaurant was something I grew up in. My dad always told me: “Be a jack of all trades and a master of none, and you’ll never want for a job.” So I learned all kinds of different jobs, just to make sure I never wanted for a job.
MP: Tell us about your current job. What all do you guys do here at the Marion Warehouse for Morgan Composting?
Mike: Here in Marion, we do smaller mixes. We do all the bagging here for all the retail stores, dealers, and for our store down in Sears. The mixes that we do, those will go in the bags, and sometimes we also put it in what we call totes – we go anywhere from a yard to 3 yards in those. Those are for your smaller farms that might want to put it into their own smaller spreader… maybe they want just a little bit here, a little bit there. All the big mixes are done down at the farm [in Sears] the ones that go into semis and get trucked all over.
MP: What is your job here in particular?
Mike: I came up here originally to run the pellet machine. So I’ll make the mix, I hammer mill the mix – that makes it into a fine powder like it would for flour… then I run it through the pellet machine, and it makes pellets. Then we run it through a crumbler to make it into crumbles. I make a 7-65 mix, which is a healthy garden fertilizer. Then I make the safe green lawn, that’s called 10-04, that’s phosphorus free, so that’s safe to be around waterways, animals, kids… we do all organic mixes.
I run the pellet mill; I fix a lot of the equipment around here. I try to fix whatever I can, and if I can’t I’ll call it in.
MP: So if there’s something the customer wants, they can pick it up right here in Marion?
Mike: Customers can pick it up right here. We do small bulk stuff, which is the loose stuff – we’ll load it into the back of pickup trucks or trailers. We have topsoil, potting soil mixes: a seed starter, a flower dew, and a veggie dew. We have all that in bulk, along with diary dew. All of that we can load into trucks or trailers here by the yard.
MP: What do you enjoy the most about working here?
Mike: It’s not the same thing every day. Throughout the day I’m doing different jobs. I’ve done about 4 or 5 different jobs just today. It’s not a monotonous job, and that’s been my problem over the years – if it’s the same thing over and over again, I’ll get bored with it. And we’ve got a great crew up here. Our crew up here at the Marion Warehouse is just like a big old family. We’re always pranking each other, and we always have each other’s back.
MP: When you’re not working, what keeps you busy?
Mike: I like to ride my Harley. I bought a Harley this summer from my brother; first Harley I’ve ever owned… And I’ve kept everything the same on it. When I got it, it’s got different stickers: Dog tags, MIA, and the soldier’s cross. So, I call it Remembrance, in remembrance of Jerry – who was a veteran, [and originally owned the bike] – and for all the other vets who we’ve lost throughout the years. I love to get out and just ride it. I call it my two-wheel wind therapy. When I’m out on the motorcycle, the world ceases to exist. All my troubles are gone, and it’s just me and the road and the wind.
MP: Has faith always been a big part of your life?
Mike: Pretty much. My grandma and grandpa went to a huge United Methodist Church in Ohio, and grandma was in the choir. So that’s where I got my love of music; I’d go to choir practice with her and sing with the choir and learned all the songs.
When we lived in Manton, I ended up becoming best friends with a pastor’s son at the Free Methodist Church, and that’s what brought the whole family into the faith over there. I walked away for a while when I was 18, I just let the flesh take over and I just went and did my own thing. But 10 years ago, when my wife divorced me, and our two boys went away with her, it was about all I had, to fall back on my faith. So, I came back to God whole-heartedly, and that’s where I’ve been since. I’ve been following him since and been singing with different choirs at various churches.
MP: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Mike: What’s worked for me is to always follow God and have faith in him. He’s got control over whatever happens in my life, and to just trust him. If I trust him, it will come out for the better in the end.
MP: What do you enjoy the most about being a part of the Marion community?
Mike: It’s such a close-knit community; it kind of reminds me of Manton back in the ‘70s. Mom always jokes with me, “You know more people in this town than I do, and you’ve been here a shorter time than I have!” I’ll go to the gas station, or the grocery store, and all of them down there know me, and we’ll joke with each other and pick on each other. My mom says, “You know more people than I’ve known the whole time I’ve been here!”
MP: Who have been your role models over the years?
Mike: My grandparents; my dad’s mom and dad, Helen and Tommy. His real name was Everett, but everybody called him Tommy. He was a lot like I am. In Circleville, we’d go to a grocery store there, or a gas station, and everybody knew him, “Hey Tommy! How’s it going, Tommy?” I spent all my summers with them, and my great-grandparents. They were very much my role models, and who I wanted to follow in life. They were both hard workers, they had their own restaurants, and even after they retired, they were constantly staying busy volunteering, and staying busy within the church.